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Growing plants as a soil stabilization technique for minimal traffic clay soil roads  RSS feed

 
Posts: 4
Location: Willamette Valley Region, Oregon, Pacific Northwest
Zone 8, Soil: Silty Clay, pH: 5, Flat-ish
2
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Background:
My property is mostly grassland prairie on top of acidic silty clay soil (of relatively good nutrient quality) in the Willamette Valley region of the Pacific Northwest (PNW).  In this region of the world, it basically never rains in summer and it never stops raining in the winter. Driving my small pickup on my "roads" during the summer are fine, because the soil is dry clay, but during the winter, the soil is easily disturbed by heavy tires. Putting chains on my tires and adding wood chips to the road definitely helps if there's several inches of wood chips, but my property is very long and narrow, and I'd probably have to spread 100 yards of woodchips every few years to keep the road driveable during the wet winter months.  I'd much rather be using those wood chips for my plants.

Proposal:
In addition to or instead of wood chips, I've been considering planting short woody shrubs on the edges and in the center of my roads to help stabilize the silty clay soil.  I've been considering growing short-ish woody shrubs like dwarf lavender or rosemary.

Questions:
Do any of you have any experience with using plants to stabilize your silty clay roads?  What types of plants would people recommend for this sort of thing?

Thank you all so much
 
pollinator
Posts: 2385
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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1) Keep sheeting water off your road.
2) Mulch with gravel/woodchip/etc
3) Paved road, asphalt/concrete/pavers/etc.

You could also try multiple parallel 'road' so that each 'road' gets time to restore itself between tire 'grazing'

If I had to pick a sub 10ft plant that can handle vehicle traffic it would be in the grass family. Not rosemary/lavender.
 
pollinator
Posts: 153
Location: Zone 3-4 (usually 4) Western South Dakota, central Black Hills
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Kevin,

In order of priority:

Grade the road from the edges toward the center so that the center humps up gently.

Add coarse medium-sized clear gravel and grade as above.

Place culverts as needed.

Maintain regularly, but not when mushy wet. Damp is good, but not soaking wet.

Dig ditches or at the least, depressions on either side.

You can rent, borrow or buy equipment—I like a tractor best. You’ll want a box blade behind and a loader up front. If you want the ditches, there’s a backhoe attachment. Living where you do, if you don’t get one now, you likely will 10 years from now, and then you’re going to say, “Why didn’t we do this 10 years ago?” They last for generations and cost about as much as a good side-by-side ATV and are a heckuva lot more useful. Otherwise, if you’re young and strong enough, you can use a shovel and a wheel-barrow. That’s the way we used to do, but now we’re too old for that, and very glad we sold some things and bought the tractor.
 
Kevin Vernoy
Posts: 4
Location: Willamette Valley Region, Oregon, Pacific Northwest
Zone 8, Soil: Silty Clay, pH: 5, Flat-ish
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Thank you both for listing some traditional road building methods using appropriate technology, and making sure that water is draining to either side of the road. They will be very helpful for future readers who are interested in those methods.  I don't use these roads all that much (maybe a few times a month) and they're on a relatively flat surface.   If I end up using the roads more than I currently do, that may be the best route.

Thank you S Bengi for suggesting the use of some type of grass.

I'm looking for plants that have root systems that can stabilize my roads for minimal traffic during winter rainy months.

I'd like to request that further replies remain as relevant as possible to my original questions regarding the use of specific plants as a soil stabilization technique in silty clay soils (personally, I'm in a zone 8 region that gets 40 inches of rain during the winter and drought during the summer).

Thanks again :-)
 
pollinator
Posts: 1129
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Have you considered vetiver grass?  I think that it would be perfect for what you are proposing.  It has a tremendously deep root structure that holds soil from eroding, is drought tolerant once established, and can be grazed by ruminants.  

I think it would survive the Willamette Valley winters.

I bought 10 vetiver plugs and planted them.  They grew like crazy.  A year later, I stuck a spade in them and divided a few of the clumps and had 200 new starts.  You might want to start a nursery in larger pots (5 gal.?) and grow a bunch of starter plants, and then divide them the next spring.  That way you could drag them inside during the winter so that they don't get too frozen.  

Google it.  There's a ton of info on it, and a ton of videos of people using it to stop erosion and lining roads.
 
Kevin Vernoy
Posts: 4
Location: Willamette Valley Region, Oregon, Pacific Northwest
Zone 8, Soil: Silty Clay, pH: 5, Flat-ish
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Thank you so much for that, Marco Banks!   Yes vertiver could be a perfect solution for my purposes.  Some good info at https://www.vetiver-grass.com/   I read that there are some varieties that are hardy to zone 8.  I also read that are some varieties that are sterile and it seems that vertiver is somewhat of a dynamic accumulator, which would make it a perfect mulch for my garden!
 
Posts: 89
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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We've got silty clay loam here and I'm making my own roads. Of course the best thing is to build roads on the crown or ridges of the land. I bought some cheap creek gravel and spread it thin and it's doing good. I spent a LOT of time grading it, putting a hump in the middle, carving drainage down the sides, making sure to shoot the drainage off to the sides so my drainage ditches don't become rivers etc. Grass grows up between the gravel so between the two, it ain't going very far. I get it delivered but I did do a driveway with gravel I picked up myself and offloaded with a shovel. I have a sub-compact tractor with a dirt scoop now. I've thought about using the dirt scoop to remove a couple inches in two tracks where vehicle tires hit and filling the tracks. Would save some gravel and make it one of those quaint gravel driveways where you just see paths for the tires and the rest is grass.

Drive around some well maintained, hilly gravel roads and study the grading.

Lime is used to stabilize clay soil when they build roads. Has to be mixed in with the top 6 inches.

 
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